Recently, I read an yet another parenting article where the author gave great practical doable advice about reducing your daily parenting stress and keeping up with the daily things like making dinner, getting the kids dressed and doing one daily chore around the house. As I skimmed it, I realized I already do all of those things and still I feel parenting stress. My two year has spent a week eating nothing but pretzels and pickles. Nothing works. No positive reinforcements, no negative reinforcements, and no bribe has been alluring enough to convince her otherwise. She has dug her heals in and pickles and pretzels are it. The parenting stress has peeked and I can chose to handle in two ways:
1. I can follow her around the house with a variety of food choices, fork in hand and pray for the miracle of her giving in and eating something slightly more nutritious.
2. I can let it go (you may add the Frozen tune here if you like or let that go too.) Chances are that my two year old will all on her own want to broaden her pallet and try something different.
I opt for #2. I call this Leaning In. My second child has given me the greatest gift of awareness and parenting skill I could ever imagine: learn to pick your battles. Most of us moms have already consider what the tween and teen years may bring and we have heard this idea of picking battles with hair styles or clothing styles with our future 15 year olds but the thought doesn't occur to us when juggling our preschoolers. If they want to wear dirty pajamas, why not? If they want to wear sandals with socks, why not? If they want to wear everything blue and pick out what character on their diaper, I say LEAN IN. These are not the fights.
My parenting goals are that our children grow up to be kind, respectful, hard working members of society. Lean in. Let things go. And do it often.
We are lucky enough to live close to the beach. Beach trips typically take a lot of preparation with kids. You must remember the sand toys, the snacks, the towels, the blanket, the sunscreen, the drinks, etc. Sometimes the idea of packing it all up is exhausting, instead I take them to the park which they love and requires no prep on my part. However, upon recent reflection I considered that perhaps the complications were mine. The kids love the beach. They won't care if I forget something. I threw some sand toys in a bag along with a couple of juice boxes, grabbed the sunscreen and a blanket and away we went. For two solid hours the kids played. They ran up and down the shoreline, hunted for shells, created castles and instantly smashed them. By the end of excursion, they had gotten a little more wet than I expected since the water was still freezing it didn't cross my mind they would want to get in to it. I didn't bring back up clothes. When we were ready to leave. I pulled off their shorts, wiped off their sandy feet with the sandy blanket and we trotted off to 7-11 to get a post beach slurpee.
I didn't worry about the sand in the car. I didn't worry about the pant-less children in the convenience store. I worried about making lasting memories with my kids and appreciating their childhoods as deeply and thoughtfully as I could that day. I say Lean In! Allow some chaos. Allow piles of dirty laundry or heck all piles of freshly folded laundry! Don't let your stress become their memories.